South Devon could get a new radio station next spring, if the broadcast regulator chooses a different company to take over from The Breeze when its licence ends in May 2018. Exe Broadcasting, a Devon company behind Radio Exe in Exeter hopes to win the licence with a new station provisionally called Devon Sound.
In its proposal document published today, Exe Broadcasting promises:
- More music and more local programming than any other commercial service in South Devon
- A wider range of music from the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll to current releases
- Double the amount of local news than on The Breeze
- A commitment to broadcast wholly from Devon, even if the rules change
This last point relates to government proposals to allow local radio stations to broadcast from central studios away from the area they serve. The Breeze’s owners are currently obliged to broadcast from Devon or Cornwall, but they have suggested they will not do that once the law changes. That follows their established pattern: after The Breeze took over Palm, it moved almost all programmes to Southampton.
By contrast, Devon Sound will be wholly broadcast from Devon just as its existing station, Radio Exe, is in Exeter and the surrounding area. In May, Radio Exe began broadcasting on DAB digital radio across most of Devon. To hear what Devon Sound will sound like (although it will have local programmes and news for South Devon if it wins the bid to go on FM), listeners should do a rescan on their radios and then select ‘EXE’.
Exe Broadcasting triggered the relicensing process for Torbay by giving Ofcom notice that it would make the application it is submitting today. It was able to do this because The Breeze chose not to go on DAB, which is being encouraged by the government.
Ofcom will now assess Exe Broadcasting’s application against criteria laid down in law, including how Devon Sound will broaden the range of programmes available in the area, how it will cater for local tastes and interests, any evidence of support from potential listeners and advertisers, and how the company will sustain the service for the 12 years of the licence.
To get an idea about what people want from a local radio station for South Devon, Exe Broadcasting commissioned Devon research company Power Marketing to interview 1,100 people in 12 locations in the area. It also reviewed audience figures from the radio industry body Rajar and population growth projections in the region. Combined with industry research from Ipsos MORI/BMRB it showed:
- Listening to current Torbay commercial station has fallen by almost half (48%) since The Breeze replaced Palm
- Very few people (8%) say The Breeze is their preferred radio station
- About 12,300 people are already Radio Exe listeners, even though the station was not available in the area at the time of the survey. This is thought to be because of the high levels of commuting and shopping trips between South Devon and Exeter and surrounding areas
- After a broad range of music from a mix of genres and decades, South Devon listeners want regular local news and information, local what’s ons and presenters who know the local area
Addition research shows that:
- Local news bulletins on existing commercial stations in the area often contain no local news about South Devon
- Devon Sound will play more than double the number of different tracks on Heart and about two-thirds more than The Breeze
Exe Broadcasting director Paul Nero says: “We want to make local radio local again, but accept that our application is a long shot because Ofcom has never awarded a licence to a challenger. However, Radio Exe currently has its highest-ever listening figures and The Breeze has its lowest ever. We’re Devon people committed to local broadcasting – particularly local news and information -and we will hire more people should we be successful.”
Ofcom has invited listeners in South Devon to say what they would like out of a local radio station by emailing [email protected] It will make its decision in the autumn.